Screenwriter Jose Nateras borrows heavily from Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone” with this plot point, but projects it through the self-aware prism of this high school setting, which gives it a somewhat fresh sense of humor. Diaz-Silverio is extremely likable as Javier: quick-witted and incredulous at the idiocy surrounding him. He has a lively, irreverent chemistry with Ireon Roach as his one and only friend, Bianca. Roach has such an engaging presence and such a way with the smart-ass, BFF banter that she makes you wish there were more to her character. As it stands, her entire raison d’etre is to drive Javier around town and help him sort through his troubles.
Javier also has a sweetly awkward flirtation with the handsome new kid, William (Ryan Foreman). As a fellow gay high school student—and a band geek—William sympathizes and connects with Javier on many levels, but he also happens to be around at just the right, opportune moments. Other key supporting characters are thinly drawn, including the school’s antagonistic, all-star athletes (Cameron Scott Roberts and Sasha Kuznetsov), the mean-girl valedictorian (Maisie Merlock) and the kindhearted English teacher (Yani Gellman). His hackneyed plea of “Bueller? Bueller?” when none of his students respond to him in class isn’t even good for a chuckle of recognition.
These are all familiar types and tropes, and the low-budget “Departing Seniors” doesn’t breathe much new life into them. Other parts of the story, however, make little to no sense, including the details of the swimming-pool kill that opens the film. How is it possible that nobody freaks out when a murder takes place on campus? Why is Javier’s dad almost entirely absent from this movie, including from the hospital where he first discovers his powers? Why are there no letters on the jocks’ letterman jackets?
These quibbles might be more tolerable if the craft on display were more proficient, or if the pacing were more suspenseful. The sound quality is often inconsistent, with some bits of dialogue registering as tinny. But it all ends on a note that suggests the mask-wearing murderer isn’t done wreaking havoc at this school, so maybe there’s a chance that everyone will get it right the second time around.